A Study in FOMO

(July 2, 2021)

If you haven’t heard of FOMO, you’ve been missing out (pun intended). FOMO has been widely experienced (and even researched!) and refers to the Fear Of Missing Out. It can affect anyone for multiple reasons, but the phenomenon is largely due to social media use: seeing pictures of our peers doing fun things makes us worry that we’re missing out on the fun experience. 

For example… Imagine yourself at home on a Friday night, watching TV and scrolling through your phone. You open Instagram and see a slew of selfies from your friends having a night out. Judging by their big smiles, bright clothes, and group numbers, they’re having the time of their lives! And most importantly: you’re missing out!! Unsurprisingly, that takes a huge hit to your stress levels and self-esteem. 

The fear of missing out has predated social media, but not by much. Social media has thrown FOMO into the spotlight since everyone can experience a daily dose of seeing the highlights of someone else’s day. In fact, the more that people use social media like Facebook morning, noon, and night, the more they tend to experience FOMO. But FOMO doesn’t originate from social media use alone. It also comes from general unhappiness and life dissatisfaction. 

Risks of FOMO:

  • Those using social media are at a higher risk of FOMO
  • FOMO leads to even more smartphone and social media use (In other words, it becomes an endless, negative cycle)
  • Research found that girls experiencing depression and boys with anxiety tend to use more social media
    • These symptoms can also become exacerbated by social media use (Again, another vicious cycle)
  • Lower mood, self-esteem, and life satisfaction
  • Increased unhealthy behaviors such as distracted driving due to phone use

Fact-checking FOMO:

  • Remember that you’re only seeing the highlights of someone’s experience
    • When you compare yourself to someone’s online presence, you’re comparing your entire life to someone else’s best moments, or a life that doesn’t even exist
  • Social media is designed to emphasize exciting, fun events
  • These are not a reflection of people’s daily lives
  • Using social media to alleviate FOMO will actually magnify it

Overcoming FOMO:

  • Identify what makes you feel good (or bad) to see online so you can curate your timeline
  • Mute or unfollow people who tend to brag or post excessively
  • Follow more positive accounts that reflect your interests
  • Record your adventures offline: try using a personal journal, scrapbook, photo album, or photo wall
    • Break the cycle of seeking online approval
  • Make memories with people whose company you actually enjoy
    • Alleviate loneliness by planning something with a friend rather than passively engaging online
  • Practice gratitude journaling
    • Science shows us it’s harder to feel negatively when we focus on our abundances 
  • Break the scrolling-to-cope-with-loneliness cycle 
    • Direct your attention to healthier places to avoid going down the rabbit hole, and you will stop feeling so drawn to it!

Get Started Today:

Take a few minutes right now to practice gratitude. 

  1. Write down 3 things you are grateful for today.
    1. If you can’t identify something yet, use one of the 5 senses to find and attend to something you appreciate, like pleasing artwork or a soft fabric. 
  2. Write down 3 people you are grateful for today and why they are important in your life.
  3. Do it again tomorrow. And the day after that. (Yes this is another cycle, but it’s a healthy one!) Check out https://www.mindful.org/an-introduction-to-mindful-gratitude/ to explore more gratitude practices. 

If you need help learning new skills to deal with FOMO or any other issues, call us at (217) 203-2008 or email us today.